12/31/14

Marissa Aroy

Recipe (Excerpt)

This excerpt of the 11 minute short film based on the short story "Talunang Manok" by Marivi Soliven is directed by Media Factory's Marissa Aroy. The screenplay is adapted by Niall McKay. This concludes a three-part series that began with Marivi Soliven's story, followed by a conversation between Marivi and Marissa about the story and the adaptation.


Recipe (Excerpt) from Media Factory on Vimeo.




12/30/14

EAT | READ: Mark Cugini

EAT | READ will be a weekly beat on the new website RealPants.com (more info here). It will be produced by our Food Editor, Kristen Iskandrian, and Executive Editor Amy McDaniel. We will feature an EAT | READ post here on EAT GENIUS every Tuesday as a lead-in to the Real Pants launch on January 1. Kristen's intro to the beat is below, followed by today's post.

In this space, we're going to tell you what we've been reading and what we've been eating, and we're going to ask other people what they've been reading and eating, and we might, from time to time, include a recipe or a meditation or a grocery list. On most days, the only thing I like more than food is books, and on other days, the only thing I like more than books is food. But on all days, I ingest a lot of words and a lot of calories. We at Real Pants are eager to explore the wide and always-changing intersection where we find ourselves ever-hungry, never full.

This week we asked the Real Pants strategist, Mark Cugini, and here is what he told us.

EATIN: I was in Staten Island for the last seven days and we just so happened to have a very Catholic holiday, so that means I've been stuffing my face with pasta, antipasti, "pesce," and a wide variety of breaded//cheese'd proteins. Yesterday, my mom sent me home with shit from our 4th family party, which was catered by Vinny's of Carroll Gardens because yes we are absolutely that Italian. Pictured is veal parmesan and sausage & peppers; not pictured are the 32w Levi's skinnies that I am no longer able to fit into.

READIN: I'm reading Emily Toder's big-ass BEACHY HEAD and I'm not done with it yet but right now the whole thing is just blowing me backwards. I don't think I've ever read another writer that seems so simultaneously stimulated and confounded by their world, and the poems are quietly cackling at everything in a manner that makes me as if it's very OK to not know anything. This book is making me feel alive and afraid and fearless and terrified in ways I've never felt before. I wanna take this book to the zoo and hold its hand and laugh at all the meerkats and then I wanna buy this book a vegan pizza and just stare at it in utter awe when not-cheese somehow burns the roof of its mouth.

12/29/14

Scott Daughtridge

DRINK IT TIL IT’S DRY

These were murderers and they were thirsty. Some killed one person, some killed many—lovers, strangers, police, children, family members, friend and enemies. Some had one last drink, some had multiple. Some were laid to rest with sweet sweet sugar on their lips, some were parched and cracking from the inside out. By drinking their last drink, they were offering peace with their executioners—or so the executioners wanted to believe. An executioner once said he hears the voices of those he’s killed before he falls asleep, that they chant, “Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry. Drink it til it’s dry.”

Serial killer, rapist—Decapitation by guillotine—White wine
Mass murder organizer—Hanging—Israeli wine
Serial killer—Hanging—Hot chocolate
Serial killer—Lethal injection—Black coffee
Serial killer—Lethal injection—Sweet tea
Murderer—Lethal injection—Two 20 ounce Cherry Cokes
Murderer—Firing squad—Three shots of Jack Daniels
Murderer—Electrocution—Twelve pack of grape soda
Murderer—Lethal injection—Can of Coke
Serial killer, rapist—Lethal injection—Three six packs of Coke and Pepsi
Murderer—Electrocution—Thirty-two ounces of A&W root beer
Murderer—Lethal injection—Can of Cherry Coke
Murderer—Lethal injection—Can of Pepsi
Murderer—Lethal injection—Black coffee, milk
Murderer—Lethal injection—Two cans of Dr. Pepper
Murderer—Lethal injection— Black coffee, milk, iced tea with real sugar
Murderer—Lethal injection—Can of coke
Murderer—Lethal injection—Two cans of coke
Murderer—Lethal injection—Can of coke
Murderer—Lethal injection—Vanilla milkshake
Murderer—Lethal injection—Two cans of Coke
Murderer—Electrocution—Melted ice cream
Murderer, serial rapist—Lethal injection—Two cups of coffee with sugar
Murderer—Lethal injection—Iced tea
Murderer—Electrocution—Can of Mountain Dew
Murderer—Lethal Injection—Cherry limeade, banana milkshake
Murderer—Lethal injection—Chocolate milkshake
Murderer—Electrocution—Can of cherry soda, cup of coffee with cream and sugar
Murderer—Lethal injection—Chocolate milk
Murderer, rapist—Lethal injection—Quart of chocolate milk
Murderer—Lethal injection—Cherry Kool-Aid
Murderer—Gas chamber—Six pack of Pepsi
Murderer—Lethal injection—Iced tea
Murderer—Firing squad—Can of 7-Up
Murderer—Lethal injection—Can of Dr. Pepper
Murderer—Lethal injection—Can of Coke
Murderer—Lethal injection—Can of Coke
Murderer—Lethal injection—Two strawberry milkshakes
Murderer—Lethal injection—Cup of orange fruit punch, cup of milk

Scott Daughtridge was born and raised in Acworth, Georgia, a small town with two lakes and a lot of trailer parks. I Hope Something Good Happens is his first chapbook.

12/26/14

Interview: Marivi Soliven and Marissa Aroy

Earlier this month, we ran a story by Marivi Soliven called "Talunang Manok." At the end of the month, we will run an excerpt from a film adaptation of Marivi's story by Marissa Aroy. Here, Marivi and Marissa interview each other about the story and its adaptation.

MARIVI SOLIVEN INTERVIEWS MARISSA AROY

Marivi: Talunang Manok is just one of nine horror stories in my short fiction collection, Spooky Mo. How did you decide that this story out of all the others could be adapted to a film?

Marissa: My partner and husband, Niall McKay and I mostly make documentary films out of our production company, Media Factory but we’d been starting to dabble in fiction and it’s a nice change of pace from documentary work. I wanted to have it be something Filipino and a horror story sounded like great fun to produce and direct. Other than that, a lot of the decision was based on practical issues: producing a short film that wasn’t too costly, wouldn’t require a lot of special effects, or post-production work, or too much stunt work. The hardest thing was to grapple with how to have Amado die in the piece, if he died by car, would we show the accident? etc.

Marivi: Please describe the process of transforming a story into a screenplay. How do you decide which elements of the original piece can be retained, and which can be revised or left out entirely?

Marissa: The screenplay was written by Niall McKay my partner with a few ingredients that I wanted to add in. Of course, there were certain aspects of the piece we wanted to keep in,the relationship dynamics between Amado, Cassandra and Socorro, the infidelity, and of course the piece de resistance, the end scene with Socorro and Cassandra. But my actual experience of the Philippines comes from my relationships with my family members there who are all working class or at poverty level. We wanted to tap into the pain they go through of having to go abroad to work, of how the relationships between family members are deeply scarred and in some ways irrevocably changed by this distance. I was inspired particularly of a cousin who has worked most of her life outside of the Philippines as a maid, and nanny, and now a caregiver. Her husband was an abusive alcoholic who passed away while she was already working abroad. Now she sends all the money she earns to her adult children and grandchildren and none of them have used the money in the way it was intended. The didn’t finish school, one granddaughter lied about being in university. And my cousin has basically sacrificed her whole life to send them money. Putting in the characters in this socio-economic bracket felt more genuine to our story telling skills. And then adding in more of the cock-fighting was just really about being curious about this world. When you watch men’s faces in the coliseum, it’s as if the cock-fighting taps into some type of primal need for conflict and blood they are otherwise not acting out. For Amado, being a sabongero (cockfighter) stood in for the frustration of being the one to be left behind. There’s a sense of helplessness and emasculation there (not just in the obvious scene), of not being in control of your fate that I think cockfighting helped assuage.

Marivi You produced this short film while on a Fulbright Fellowship to the Philippines, but you've produced other documentary films in the past. Please describe how your experience filming in the Philippines differed from filming in the United States.

Marissa: We had a grand time filming this short film in the Philippines! The crew we have really know how to do things indie style, guerrilla even. When we didn’t have a coffin that fit the tall actor who plays Amado, they made one overnight! They were wonderful and were willing to go the extra mile for us. And our budgeted amount for the film, which basically was the money I had from the Fulbright went a really long way. I’m happy to say we were able to produce this and pay a decent wage, which considering the theme of the short film, was extremely important to me. I can’t wait for the next time we film a movie there.

MARISSA AROY INTERVIEWS MARIVI SOLIVEN

Marissa: Were there people you had in mind when you wrote this story?

Marivi: I had multiple people in mind! Mistresses and adulterous husbands are so common in Manila at all socioeconomic levels. I knew of uncles, cousins-in-law, friends, work colleagues who all had at one point or another indulged in affairs or maintained mistresses. When an older married man dies the running joke is how many widows will show up at the funeral.

Marissa: Did the short film get at the same vengeance you wanted for your Socorro?

Marivi: Yes. It was an earthier version of it. I like the way you transformed Socorro's character into an Overseas Contract Worker. Affairs are an almost inevitable consequence of a spouse working abroad.

Marissa: Do you have other stories you’ve written that you think could be adapted to a film?

Marivi: Several! I would love to see the title story Spooky Mo filmed, because of the Japanese entertainer rape scene with Tom Jones singing What's Up Pussycat in the videoke. Negotiations for the film adaptation of The Mango Bride have been going on for over a year now. It would be nice to get moving on that because it takes on the issue of domestic violence.

Marissa If you could have your dream cast who would the actors be?

Marivi: My dream cast for The Mango Bride film would be the marvelous Filipino actor Eugene Domingo in the role of Marcela, Chris Cooper as the abusive husband, Eddie Garcia as the Filipino old-timer Mang Floro, who befriends Amparo. I don't know who could play the other characters in the novel since I'm no longer familiar with younger actors in Philippine cinema.

Marissa: My husband was a little concerned with why I wanted to tell this story with the the cutting off of the husband’s penis as a major plot point. What did your husband think of the story?

Marivi: I can see how that would be sore issue for men, but the story wouldn't have worked with any other body part h. After all, the title (and the actual recipe that inspired it) is Talunang Manok - The Defeated Cock. I have no idea what my husband thinks of the story. He's a literature professor at UC San Diego and has taught some of my other essays and The Mango Bride in his Lit class but has never assigned this story. I should ask him why...

12/25/14

Adam Robinson

Skiing at Killington


Wally wanted winter when there was no snow
It snowed, it snowed, it snowed

Sally said there should be sunshine, even so
It snowed, it snowed, it snowed

I used to be a big downhill skier
I’d like to be so again
You can keep Bahamas
I’ll take Vermont
Go skiing at Killington
Go skiing at Killington

Slip sliding down the ski slopes at Christmas time we go
In the snow, in the snow, in the snow

Me, my brothers and my father in one gondola
In the snow, in the snow, in the snow

Find your way over to Bear Mountain
For the afternoon sunshine
Play Devils Fiddle
Or go Outer Limits—
Go skiing at Christmastime
Go skiing at Christmastime

Sometimes I get going really fast
And try to hit a jump
Do a backscratcher or a double daffy
And land it with a thump
But watch out for that stump
Break my little rump

This Christmas song was recorded in Milwaukee in 2003.

12/24/14

Secret Weapons: Eating and Friends with Craig Griffin

Eat, Knucklehead, by Craig Griffin (book cover)
Adam Robinson: Thank you for agreeing to do this interview for Amy McDaniel presents Eat Genius.
Craig Griffin: Anything for Amy.
AR: I was just reading an article I saw on Facebook about one of the Navy Seals, the one who got Bin Laden. His house was broken into, and he defeated five intruders. What are your feelings on that?
CG: Sounds like—
AR: But maybe we should talk about your book.
CG: I smell a hoax.
AR: Wait, the hoax being American Facebook machismo, not your book, right?
CG: Yeah, the Seal thing. I tried to google it but my computer's only letting me Yahoo. Which is for shit, you know. But yeah, American machismo, a hoax.
AR: Yeah, a lot of browsers are switching to Yahoo. I've been using Bing a lot. It's pretty good.
CG: I read an article yesterday crediting Ayn Rand with it.
AR: With Bing? I tried to google it but my computer’s only letting me Chumhum.
CG: American machismo. Like, but for Ayn Rand, guys would keep their shirts on during pickup basketball games. Or not so much that, but they'd like losing as much as winning because the game's so fun.
AR: Oh, but Ayn Rand derailed that?
CG: She's like: Win. That's it. And make fun of the losers. I feel like these sports metaphors are tired, but I've got this baseball team I'm thinking about.
AR: Oh?
CG: I'm being made head coach of this high school baseball team in this official ceremony at the school tomorrow and I'm nervous as hell.
AR: There's a ceremony? Who will be there? Are there boosters?
Hippy coach (#24)
CG: I have to give a speech, and I think that when you give speeches to baseball teams and their families, you're supposed to use a lot of sports metaphors to make a connection. And to make it seem like you know what you're talking about. And I realize that all the metaphors I've used so far are about basketball. So you can see why I'm nervous. That's the wrong sport. Goddam Ayn Rand.
AR: That sounds like fun. Maybe start by saying it's because of Atlas Shrugged that we're so competitive. Then talk about James Naismith and the peach baskets. Then close by saying "Let's win one for the Gipper." Then start a slow clap.
CG: I think I'll probably just tell them I'll cut all my hair off if we win state. Then maybe the slow clap thing.
AR: I have no advice, really. You're probably the first art teacher that gets to coach the baseball team. So, about your book. Will it have pictures?
CG: Yes. Well, drawings. We should send a copy of it to that Navy Seal. And the five guys he defeated. They could read it while they convalesce.
AR: When you tell people about Eat, Knucklehead, do you say it's a cookbook, or a novella, or it's letters from a dad to his son, or what? Like, I mean, if they're running away from you as you try to tell them. So you only have a second.
CG: I think that if someone's gonna stick around for the full explanation, I've told them it's a cookbook. Unless they seem literary, then maybe I say novella. Nobody writes letters anymore, do they?
AR: Yeah, no one would know what you meant. They’d be like “letters? You mean an epistolary novel?” So when you started putting the cookbook together, were you surprised by how much story you were writing down?
CG: Am I surprised by how much of my cookbook isn't a cookbook? Hmm. I don't think I expected it to work, actually.
AR: What do you mean? Which part didn't you expect to work?
CG: Well, the idea—to share recipes that are cheap, healthy, easy and quick, in a vernacular and style that was specific to this character, this father, who's writing these letters to his son, explaining different motivations/styles of kitchen play, and in these letters including stories that would somehow be relevant to a reader beyond the son, the intended recipient. I just wasn't sure I could achieve that relevance.
AR: Oh, oh. I see. Well I think you accomplish that because the father is an interesting guy and it's fun to read about his exploits.
CG: I'm glad you think so.
AR: I’m paid to.
CG: I was also like, where the fuck was I gonna find enough recipes … I'm about as much of a cook as I am a baseball coach ...
AR: Well that's a good question, about your cooking experience. And I think it suggests some of the, of what makes the book so worthwhile. Like, you're not a chef or anything. So what drew you to writing a cookbook?
CG: Right. I've never had any kind of classical training. I'd get sent home first on one of the cooking competition reality programs.
AR: Probably true.
CG: But I was a teacher. And somehow, when I taught, I got wrangled into teaching a cooking class.
AR: Oh yeah?
CG: And even though I'd never spent any time thinking about how to teach someone to, for instance, saute an onion, I had an approach to the class that all but transformed the 20 or so sophomores into Julia's Children.
AR:
CG: Julia’s—
AR: Oh, I get it. What was that approach, and did you replicate it in book format?
Cheese wads
CG: First day of class, I said, “You may have heard that this class used to be called Home Ec, and in it you would learn how to, I dunno, knit doilies or something, along wth beat an egg and burn a roast. We'll call this class 'Culinary Art,' and in it you will learn how to do one thing: impress a significant someone in your life.” Everybody was hooked. And yes, there are a few chapters—well, the entire book is all about cooking for someone you care for.
AR: Yeah, that's what I got most out of the book, your love not just for cooking, but for the experience that comes from eating with people. Whether it's a Super Bowl party or a holiday dinner with your partner's parents.
CG: Or camping, or breakfast in bed.
AR: So, all the chapters are linked to tell the story of a young guy's life. His dad is basically giving him instructions for all these different milestones people come to in their twenties. Was it hard to find recipes to fit into that? Which came first, the kid's milestones, or the food you wanted to write about?
CG: Most of the recipes came after the general outline was put together. I had an idea of what the milestones would be, but it wasn't until I fleshed out the story that I started thinking seriously about what kinds of recipes I'd need. I had a good amount myself, and some I planned on developing. But I also had a secret weapon. Do you want to know what that was?
AR: Follow up question: what was the secret weapon?
CG: I'll tell you: friends. You'll see in the acknowledgement section of the book. We know so many people who are pretty amazing cooks, and I even had recipes they'd made in mind before I contacted them.
AR: So you actually contacted people and they sent you their recipe?
CG: Yes, when I finished the letters in the book, I sent personal letters to all these people, these beautiful friends, explaining the book and the chapters. For some, I just asked for this or that recipe they'd made once that I'd tasted, but of everyone, I asked whether reading through the letters brought anything to mind. The response was pretty fucking awesome.
AR: People love talking about food, when they have a good experience around eating.
CG: Yeah.
AR: Of all the recipes in the book, what are you craving the most lately?
CG: I just made the open-faced sloppy joes. Holy crap were they delicious. That recipe comes from my friend Fred. Otherwise, it's getting cold up here, so we're exploring soups.
AR: And there's a whole letter devoted to them.
CG: Have you cooked anything lately, Adam?
AR: Well, I made soup a couple weeks ago. And I'm making chili tonight.
CG: Attaboy.
AR: And I've had Uncle Pants's Sure Fire Hangover Cure a couple times.
CG: That's an easy one to remember. Uncle Pants.
AR: Yeah, but you got to read the book to find out ...
CG: Or they could just look up last year's Eat Genius. But that's no fun. Yeah, read the book. And have a Happy New Year.

Eat, Knucklehead will be out from Publishing Genius in March.

12/23/14

EAT | READ: Kristen Iskandrian and Amy McDaniel

EAT | READ will be a weekly beat on the new website RealPants.com (more info here). It will be produced by our Food Editor, Kristen Iskandrian, and Executive Editor, Amy McDaniel. We will feature an EAT | READ post here on EAT GENIUS every Tuesday as a lead-in to the Real Pants launch on January 1. Kristen's intro to the beat is below, followed by today's post.

In this space, we're going to tell you what we've been reading and what we've been eating, and we're going to ask other people what they've been reading and eating, and we might, from time to time, include a recipe or a meditation or a grocery list. On most days, the only thing I like more than food is books, and on other days, the only thing I like more than books is food. But on all days, I ingest a lot of words and a lot of calories. We at Real Pants are eager to explore the wide and always-changing intersection where we find ourselves ever-hungry, never full.

What We've Been Eating: Kristen
Two standouts in my week of eating were the english muffins toasted toward burntness and then topped with ricotta cheese and a swirl of honey--that was breakfast a few mornings--and a homemade macaroni and cheese that did not take much longer than the boxed kind. I used orecchiette and made the sauce by first making a slurry of flour, milk, nutmeg, and dijon mustard, then adding it slowly to a bit of butter melted in a pan. Let it bubble and thicken, mix mix mix out the lumps, dump in your pasta (having reserved some of the cooking water), then add a handful of grated cheese and a big plop of greek yogurt. Mix and mix some more. Add pasta water as necessary. Salt and pepper and maybe a dash of hot sauce.

What We've Been Reading: Kristen
I am re-reading two books that I dearly love: Maggie Nelson's BLUETS and Diane Williams's VICKY SWANKY IS A BEAUTY, a phrase my older daughter loves to sing-song. I am enjoying the pairing of these books, the way they seem to speak to one another:

"The most I want to do is show you the end of my index finger. Its muteness." (Nelson)

"We are a family. There's a point to it and to the dimmer switch in the foyer." (Williams)

What We've Been Eating: Amy
I made a Sunday roast (really a braise, and in a Crockpot, but it had a roast's Sundayness): short ribs in homemade beef stock with turnips and carrots, accompanied by buttered rutabaga and steamed green beans.

Making a roast on Sunday is the kind of thing that, when I do it once, then I decide to do it every week (only I don't). Another thing like that is roast chicken. I'll roast a chicken every Sunday! Or a batch of cookies, or a pie, or a pot of stock, or bolognese for handmade tagliatelle or lasagne with béchamel. Every Sunday! And it's forgotten by the very next week. But so what? The part that's cognitively soothing is to make the resolution in the first place, while biting into a cookie or a shred of beef robed in gravy, and to imagine the long stretch of pleasantly routine Sundays ever after.

What We've Been Reading: Amy
I read THE PAYING GUESTS by Sarah Waters, and it made it easier to clean house while the short ribs simmered in the Crockpot because the narrator in the book has to do all the cleaning in her house, while I had help, and houses in England right after World War I sound much harder to maintain than my bungalow. Also the book has an impossible moral dilemma and well-done sex scenes. Now I'm reading THE SECRET PLACE by Tana French, a mystery set in a Dublin girl's school. Just right for Christmas.

12/22/14

Muriel Vega

Smoking a Pie and Other Pie Challenges

On the night of December 23, as I stared at our new puppy on the couch, I reached out to Alex and asked him about pies. As he grew up in the South and I didn’t, I figured he would have a bit more experience in the art of eating pies. My grandmother is no longer around so I didn’t have much to go on aside from a cookbook I got for Christmas.

My pie challenge originated almost a year ago in December 2013 from an urge to find something to occupy my hands (and anxiety) with. I found that the art of making pie is a beautiful, complex one. I challenged myself to bake 50 pies over a year, which may sound simple over such a long period of time, but it’s anything but.

Learning how to make pie crusts made me a more humble person, seriously. Praise the grandmothers and great-grandmothers of the South and beyond for having such magical hands and the ability to whip out perfectly flaky crusts in an afternoon. The relationship between flour, salt, and butter is a finicky one; those three ingredients must come together at the perfect temperature and ratio to result in a delicious pie crust. Harder than it sounds. Tears and screams happened in my kitchen more than once, scaring most of my animals to the other side of the house. But once you get it, you hear bells and whistles and it’s wonderful. As I baked my way through my first dozen pies, I started getting more and more ambitious with my crusts. Once I mastered the all-butter crust, I made crusts with cream cheese, pecan brittle, poppy seeds, and even lard. Those pies are prized moments and every time I complete one, I feel as if I won a county fair contest and obtained one more blue ribbon.

The most amazing aspect of this challenge is how it’s grown from a personal growth experiment to an endeavor supported by so many people in my life.

***

During the day, I work at a church. No, I’m not religious, but it’s a mostly fulfilling job where I get to do things I love. There are many elderly ladies at my work, but Ruth is a special one. Ruth tells me stories about how when she was my age, she had many boys hanging with her. She tells me that I should always have Plan A, B, and C, up to J if I can, in life and that I should always say yes to dessert. She’s 89 years old, so I tend to listen to everything she says as my life’s gospel.

Once I started this 50-pie challenge, she was the first one I told. She told me that she would teach me everything she knew about pies as it was one of her favorite desserts in the whole world. She told me about how her favorite part of the whole process is that final moment when you crack the window and you carefully place the pie beside it. Nothing feels better than that moment, she said. As I told her my issues with pie crusts and how frustrated I became after failing time after time, she shook her head at me.

“You gotta love the pie, Muriel. If you don’t, the pie won’t love you back.”

I’ve taken that advice to heart. From the moment on, I only baked when I wanted to instead of when I needed to. My challenge became more enjoyable and my crusts started coming out better and better. But as a final piece of advice, Ruth told me her special ingredient for all her pie crusts: vodka.

“Always keep vodka in the house, Muriel. For pies and for life.”

***

At my house, all of our relationship bonding exercises have to do with food. We are the household that has three types of meat curing in the fridge, maybe a piece of bacon hanging in our back room waiting to be smoked and a giant container full of fermented kimchi. When guests come over, I usually offer them food like your grandmother who thinks you should put some meat on those bones. When I told Alex that I was making 50 pies, his eyes glazed over and I had to shake him to get him out of his future food coma.

Halfway through my challenge, I was getting bored of the ol’ oven pie. I wanted a challenge within my challenge. I told Alex that I wanted to smoke a pie and we joined up forces. It took two weeks to prepare us for that sunny day in June. Pie number 24 was going to be a Black Cherry Habanero Pie, smoked with apple and mesquite wood.

Luckily, most smokers (good, ceramic ones) work similarly to an oven. As long as you maintain the heat within the prescribed temperature and you avoid direct heat to the pie, that pie is going to be the best thing you’ve ever had. The pie crust comes out perfectly spongy with the aroma of smoke that will fill your entire house. The spicy habanero pair up beautifully with the sweet black cherries, making it into compote with layers of flavors. Make sure to use a heat resistant pie pan, e.g. oven safe. It cooks in less time at 375 F, about 20 minutes less than your usual oven affair, and well, it’s pretty darn good. Since then, we’ve also smoked a Salted Caramel Apple pie with a bacon lattice.

Finishing up a pie gives you a unique sense of accomplishment, at least for me. I feel like a chemist every time, like I discovered the perfect combo of ingredients for this particular pie and it turned out well. Alert the presses! The challenge ends on December 2014.

Now go make this pie.




Black Cherry Habanero Pie

Make your favorite all-butter pie crust

Filling (adapted from Four & Twenty Blackbirds recipe)
4 cups black cherries, pitted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 habanero, diced
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons ground arrowroot
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Egg wash + demerara sugar

Smoker notes | Set between 350 F and 375 F. Use apple and mesquite wood for flavor

Combine all ingredients in one bowl, mix well.
Pour into prepared pie shell. Make sure not to fill it all the way to the top so it doesn’t overflow when cooking.
Arrange lattice (or design of your choice) on top.
Place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
**During this time, prepare the smoker with the wood and set the temperature between 350 F and 375 F. Make sure the pie only receives indirect heat.
Take the pie out of the fridge and brush it with egg wash. Then, sprinkle sugar on the top.
Place it in the smoker for 35 minutes, or until bubbly and the crust is brown.

Muriel Vega is an Atlanta-based freelance writer. You can find her byline at The Guardian, Paste, xoJane, The Atlantic, among others. She’s most likely covered in flour right now. You can follow her pie challenge on her Instagram.

12/19/14

Morgan Childs

Nostalgia

Pepita Greenblatt had tennis-ball adenoids and hockey-puck kidney stones and a monstrously bad case of the you-know-whats, and her husband expected a sandwich every afternoon at two thirty, ‘And by the way Pepita, my eczema is burning,’ further requiring the application of a smelly yellow paste to the southernly regions of his padded lower back in a place only his sweetheart could reach, so Pepita did what a good wife with a bad bladder does and slopped the spread upon the site while Amos ate baloney and they watched Jane Fonda bounce around in a hi-cut leotard,

and the sticky saccharine smell of the creamy schmear brought sweet Pepita back to the soda shoppe on Euclid and Plum where she worked in a white apron and a hot-dog hat the summer she lost her maidenhood, idly tying maraschino cherries into knots with her tongue and lathering sandwich bread the color of sunblock with exactly: one part canned salmon, two parts cream cheese, one part mayonnaise, and a healthy dollop of Cool Whip

…slathering eczema salve and gazing at the TV screen, Pepita Greenblatt remembered with a little sigh how nice it was to be able eat that sort of thing and still cut a Jane-Fonda figure.

Morgan Childs is a writer and editor living in Prague, Czech Republic. 

12/18/14

Ruth Lehrer

Duck Smoke

For the first time

she had to knife a neck

off a duck cadaver

which then she left in hot

and wine over a night of cold

All she had was a sad cake box

to hold its duck wild in

But in morning

she hung it by colander

holes of air to speak

through day

I think in evening

it was all smoke

But I’m not sure.

Ruth Lehrer is a writer and sign language interpreter living in western Massachusetts. Her writing has been published in print and online journals such as Trivia: Voices of Feminism, Yes No Journal and The Blue Hour Magazine. Her novel, BEING FISHKILL, will be published by Candlewick Press in 2016. She can be found on twitter at @duckduckf.

12/17/14

Brooke Hatfield

Cheese Gelatin Mold and Disdain: An Exegesis of 1969's "What's Cooking in Chevy Chase?"

“The object of the Woman’s Club of Chevy Chase, founded in 1913, is to promote the welfare of the Community and of the State of Maryland.” The object of “What’s Cooking in Chevy Chase,” the cookbook the club released in 1969, was “to promote civic and economic interest”--but also maybe someone’s husband had stock in almonds, water chestnuts, or paprika, because the women of Chevy Chase were apparently awash in them. 

The community cookbook was and is a fairly typical eleemosynary pursuit (1)—the Woman’s Club’s Building Fund wasn’t going to fill itself! Perhaps early success with a 1964 Easy-See large-print cookbook for “partially sighted” children (2) didn’t prepare the women of the club for the slog that awaited them with this edition. In their foreword, editors Virginia Epperson James and Mary Kathryn Ambler thank “our typists, four Club members and one devoted husband,” as well as “our families whose kind understanding helped us through a busy, often frustrating, but always interesting experience.” I mean, listen guys, I wasn’t there, but it seems to me that “What’s Cooking in Chevy Chase” is CONTEMPT! And far too many dishes containing gelatin!  

I lived near Chevy Chase for a couple years, and aside from a few estate sales and a particularly abrasive trip to the Trader Joe’s where I made peace with never having (loud, precocious, insufferable, Joe Joe’s Cookie-demanding) children, I rarely spent time there and the place never gave much of an impression. My friend Will: “Going to Chevy Chase is sort of like eating a couple slices of wonder bread except with more speed traps.” Will also has a story about the Chevy Chase Trader Joe’s:

In college we used to dumpster dive at Trader Joe’s, and one time my friend who was a hippie fell into the dumpster that Trader Joe's shared with the honey baked ham store next door and got his feet into a leftover honey ham and his already-gross feet smelled like honey ham for the rest of the car ride home.

There are several recipes involving ham in “What’s Cooking in Chevy Chase,” but none of them involve hippie feet. Hippie feet are definitely NOT what’s cooking in Chevy Chase. 

Recipe titles in this book are in all caps, which I will not reproduce here, though CUCUMBER VICHYSSOISE is a terrific expletive. One recipe title is an improbable command—Mock Enchilada—and the name of “Gentleman’s Delight (A Casserole Dish)” reads like an R. Kelly song. (“Maiden’s Delight” contains corn, cheese, chicken soup, and a pound of ham. Guess “Maiden’s Bewildered Colon” was too on the nose?) The chicken and spaghetti casserole includes “a few drops of yellow coloring for better color before baking,” which evokes visions of a creamy pasta dish that smiles down benevolently on us all, giving us vitamin D and potentially gout. 

Chicken Heavenly and Opulent Chicken are both incredibly glamorous and bedaubed by cream of mushroom soup; there are hints of “Mean Girls” in the editor’s note re: Chicken Heavenly--“Flora Weber sent in the same recipe but calls her “Party Chicken.” Stop trying to make “Party Chicken” happen, Flora Weber!

The Woman’s Club of Chevy Chase writes, Borg-like, “We know our favorites will become your favorites also.” To be fair, I could eat pounds of Deviled Cherry Tomatoes, which contain deviled ham, cream cheese, and minced onion. “Put a decorate mound of the ham-cheese mixture on each; chill” the recipe suggests, evoking both craftsmanship and “Point Break.” 

But all the decorated mounds of a ham-cheese mixture in the world can’t negate the existence of Quick Tomato Aspic. (As if the amount of time you put into an aspic is the problem!) It’s hard out there for a mid-century cookbook editor, and you can see why it would be “often frustrating, but always interesting” to taste-test Golden Salad, which contains gelatin, mayonnaise, “hard-cooked” eggs, celery, and sweet pickle. Cheese Gelatin Mold contains cream cheese, blue cheese, and a cup of orange juice. Just reading the title for Molded Cottage Cheese and Cucumber Salad makes me angry.

Other Recipes in “What’s Cooking in Chevy Chase” That Make Me Angry, or, Mid-Century Dishes I Would Serve To My Worst Enemy:
Tang-y Beets (Beets+Tang, basically.)
Creamed Celery and Pecans
Grape-Nut Pudding
Jellied Veal Loaf
“My Mother’s Favorite Lima Beans”

In 1976 the Woman’s Club of Chevy Chase released the “Second Serving” of “What’s Cooking in Chevy Chase,” which contained a recipe entitled “How to Preserve a Husband.” “Do not pickle or put in hot water,” it says. “This makes them sour.” And don’t let him put his foot in a honeybaked ham. That way lies madness. Which, presumably, has been cooking in Chevy Chase all along. 

Click to enlarge
(1) “What’s Cooking in Chevy Chase” was one of many fundraiser cookbooks printed that year by North American Press of Kansas City, Inc., the “largest publishers devoted exclusively to women’s groups in the United States and Canada.” They printed a cookbook benefitting the Missaukee Fire Department Auxiliary in Lake City, Michigan called “No More Burnt Offerings.”


(2) “WAYS TO MAKE SOUP INTERESTING,” the headline of an excerpted page screams at you. One method? “Frankfurter slices for green pea, creamed chicken, or celery soups.” May your taste buds never live in interesting times!

Brooke Hatfield is a writer and artist who sees aspics as the villains of any cookbook they inhabit. She's working on a project about old cookbooks for 421 Atlanta that will drop (do books drop?) in fall 2015.

12/16/14

EAT | READ: Amber Sparks and Elisa Gabbert

EAT | READ will be a weekly beat on the new website RealPants.com (more info here). It will be produced by our Food Editor, Kristen Iskandrian, and Executive Editor Amy McDaniel. We will feature an EAT | READ post here on EAT GENIUS every Tuesday as a lead-in to the Real Pants launch on January 1. Kristen's intro to the beat is below, followed by today's post.

In this space, we're going to tell you what we've been reading and what we've been eating, and we're going to ask other people what they've been reading and eating, and we might, from time to time, include a recipe or a meditation or a grocery list. On most days, the only thing I like more than food is books, and on other days, the only thing I like more than books is food. But on all days, I ingest a lot of words and a lot of calories. We at Real Pants are eager to explore the wide and always-changing intersection where we find ourselves ever-hungry, never full.

This week, we asked two of our amazing Real Pants contributors: Amber Sparks, author of May We Shed These Human Bodies, and Elisa Gabbert, author of The Self Unstable. Amber will be writing a beat called "The Long View," a look at current events and politics through a literary and historical lens. Elisa will be writing about style, broadly defined, in a beat called "Style Guide."

What we've been eating: Amber
I'm five months pregnant and while I haven't had what you'd call cravings, I do find myself eating a lot of apples and cheese. I guess the kid can already acquire tastes through what I eat (which is pretty badass), so I've also been trying to eat a lot of curries, spicy food, stuff with lots of umami - all the things kids don't normally like to eat. But for some reason, the absolute cleanest, best taste is a slice of Granny Smith apple and a bite of sharp cheddar cheese.

What we've been reading: Amber 
A long time ago in reading years, I picked up a collection at Barnes and Noble called WHAT THE WORLD WILL LOOK LIKE WHEN ALL THE WATER LEAVES US and fell in love with it. Back then the way books ended up in print, on shelves, was a great mystery, and I had no idea I would come to know any writers, including the writer of this marvelous, strange collection of stories. I constantly think about how lucky I am to be part of this (surprisingly small) writing community, and I keep thinking about that as I read Laura van den Berg's first and really fantastic novel, FIND ME. After her two collections, it feels familiar - her strong, sharply observant voice is instantly recognizable - and yet surprising, too, in watching a small universe expand to a wider one. I'm lucky, I'm lucky, I tell myself forty times a day, and today I'm lucky because I'm eating cheese and apples and reading an advance copy of a favorite writer's debut novel. I can't wait to recommend it to all of you.

What we've been eating: Elisa
In reverse chronological order, as far back as I remember: some roasted apples this afternoon, leftover peanut noodles for breakfast, peanut noodles last night, eggs poached in homemade salsa (pictured; I make a batch every week) and served over crushed tortilla chips for brunch yesterday, gluten-free pizza from a restaurant on Friday night, a salad for lunch (butter lettuce, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, feta, olives). Earlier in the week, there was a big pot of tomato sauce with sausage and peppers and basil, which we ate with penne, and before that pork tenderloin with the last of the leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving, and roasted butternut squash with rosemary. When in doubt, roast it. Or throw eggs at the problem.

What we've been reading: Elisa
For a good part of this year, maybe three to four months, I was dealing with a case of reader’s block; I never felt like reading anything. I recently snapped out of it and have been bingeing on books ever since – I think part of what helped me recover was getting some books from the library and having a “deadline” to finish them. Some of the books I finished in the last couple of months include: WOLF IN WHITE VAN by John Darnielle (when I was reading this I kept wishing it was funny; it was sort of forgettable in the end); THE FOLDED LEAF by William Maxwell (lovely sentences, touching characterizations, but I kept forgetting what was interesting about it after I put it down); FACES IN THE CROWD by Valeria Luiselli (very good though I got less interested when the female protagonist semi-morphed into the poet Gilberto Owen); THE CHAIRS ARE WHERE THE PEOPLE GO by Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti (funny little philosophical essays on living; a bit self-aggrandizing, but I dog-eared tons of pages in this); THE ANTHOLOGIST by Nicholson Baker (delightful! I read this in one day); THINK LIKE A FREAK (by the Freakonomics guys, whatever their names are; I read this embarrassingly quickly, in a few hours); VOYAGE IN THE DARK by Jean Rhys (god I love her); and THUNDERSTRUCK by Elizabeth McCracken (I’m not a short story person at all, but I read these straight through; so so good). I haven’t been reading poetry at all.

12/15/14

Jamie Iredell

OF SUNDRIES, COLONIAL AND POST-, IN ALTA CALIFORNIA, VINEYARD OF THE LORD

My sister says that what was most important to her about the Sacrament of Communion was that now she would be able to walk to the foot of the altar, like Mom and Dad, and be able to partake of the host, which she desired to taste, and that this would make her feel more grown up. Afterwards, she’d realize the host was a little, light yellow wafer that tasted like cardboard, and that the wine was vinegary and burned in her throat.

The German wine Blue Nun is arguably the first international wine sales phenomenon, due in part to their “whole meal” campaign that ended anxiety over wine pairings. A famous Blue Nun was Sor María Fernández Coronel y Arana de Jésus de Ágreda. After receiving Holy Communion, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Holy Orders, María fell into bouts of quiet religious ecstasy, kneeled in rapturous prayer for days without food or water. The black shoulders of her shawl attracted dust, as she would not stir, save levitating. María de Ágreda flew threw the air, across the Atlantic, and across North America, to Texas and New Mexico, and appeared before the Navajo and Apache. This, Catholics call the miracle of bilocation. And so the nun, like the wine, was an international phenomenon. Now, in America, Americans readily suck down that cheap swill, Blue Nun.

The first European to settle California, Father Junipero Serra, referred to California as the “vineyard of the Lord,” which is ironic now, considering California’s wine industry. But the Blessed Father of course alluded metaphorically to souls. My friend says that he never uses metaphor, and that metaphor is as dumb as rocks. I’ve read almost all of his writing, and there’s hardly a line that’s not metaphoric. So when he says that a character’s head is shook clean of later days, he means it literally, I suppose—that days somehow dirty this person’s head. I don’t know about that. It seems more advantageous to have a vineyard of the Lord metaphorically, than for the Lord to have an actual vineyard. I mean, what’s the Lord going to do with a vineyard?

On Ash Wednesday mom pulled me briefly from school, took me to mass, where Father Scott drew the penitential cross across my forehead. My schoolmates and I darted around the playground and the halls, brisking from class to class with these ashy crosses drawn on our faces. Only that night or the next morning would water rinse away the cross, swirling it in a vortex down the shower drain. With Lent came Friday’s disgusting tuna sandwiches packed into my brown bag lunch, along with an apple, and cookies. We ate fish for lunch and dinner on Fridays; no steaks or hamburgers, spaghetti or porkchops. Salmon, tuna, cod, and—more than anything—fish sticks. Disgusting, breaded, lined on the baking sheet and torched crispy, sometimes black, the-only-way-to-eat-them-with-any-joy-whatsoever-is-with-gallons-of-ketchup, processed Gorton’s Fish Sticks.

Mallorcans cook with a lot of saffron, a spice that would not have been found in North America. In Jalpan de Sierra, San Luis Potosí, Mexico, the staple edible crops are nopales and maguey. Father Serra instructed the Pames on the temporal government, which was the Church. As well, he instructed the Pames on agriculture, teaching them to use a plow and oxen, to sow beans and corn, to sell the surplus of their harvest, and to buy cloth and make clothing. Serra’s biographer, Father Palou, writes that by this teaching Father Serra led the Pames away from their natural inclination towards idleness, and lit the torch of civilization for these heathen. Though in reality the Pames had been part of the complex Aztec Empire for four hundred years prior to Conquistador arrival.

Before I came to Dillard, Georgia, the little mountain town closest to the writing retreat where I penned these paragraphs, I stopped at a grocery store and loaded up with the requisite foodstuffs: steaks and chicken, cereal, milk and coffee, bread and sandwich meat, and vegetables. But I'd also packed with me, perhaps naively, knowing what kind of a drinker I can be, a mere twelve pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

This is the prayer we chanted, holding hands, every night before dinner: Bless us oh Lord, for these our gifts, which we are about to receive, our bounty through Christ, our Lord, Amen. Then we all said, God bless the cook! When we were with my grandparents, Grandpa said, God bless Chicky, and Holly, and Harvey, and Boots—all the dead dogs.

Blessed Father Fray Junípero Serra’s Alta California vineyard of the Lord. My Grandma and Grandpa owned a vineyard in the Napa Valley. Father Serra likely never saw the Napa Valley, as the Spanish had not explored that far north during his lifetime.

This just came in my email inbox, from my uncle:

SIPPING VODKA
A new priest at his first mass was so nervous he could hardly speak. After mass he asked the monsignor how he had done. The monsignor replied, “When I’m worried about getting nervous at mass, I put a glass of vodka next to the water pitcher. If I get nervous, I take a sip.” Next Sunday he took the monsignor’s advice. At the beginning of the homily, he got nervous and took a drink. He proceeded to talk up a 
storm. 
Upon his return to his office after the mass, he found the following note on the door: 
 


1. Sip the vodka, don't shoot it.
 

2. There are 10 Commandments, not 12.
 

3. There are 12 disciples, not
10.
 

4. Jesus was consecrated, not constipated. 
 

5. Jacob wagered his donkey, he did not bet his ass. 
 

6. We do not refer to Jesus Christ as the late J.C.
 

7. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not referred to as Daddy, Junior, and The Spooky.
 

8. David slew Goliath, he did not kick the shit out of him.
 

9. When David was hit by a rock and was knocked off his donkey, don't say he was stoned off his ass.

10. We do not refer to the cross as the “Big T.” 

11. When Jesus broke the bread at the last supper he said, “take this and eat it for it is my body.” He did not say “Eat me.”

12. The Virgin Mary is not called '”Mary with the Cherry.” 

13. The recommended grace before a meal is not “Rub-A-Dub-Dub thanks for the grub, Yeah God.”


Easter dinner mom roasted a leg of lamb and served it with mint jelly. I still cannot stand mint jelly, but I’ve come around to lamb. Lamb of God. Take away the sins of the Earth. Lamb of God, fatty on my tongue. Lamb of God, dressed with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. Then came ordinary time, which is not what I would have called it then, for everything was ordinary as a Catholic boy: “something regular, customary, or usual. Ecclesiastical: an order or form for divine service, especially that for saying Mass; the service of the Mass exclusive of the canon. History/Historical: a member of the clergy appointed to prepare condemned prisoners for death.”

Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church held an annual fundraiser, The Ham Dinner. They still do. But, I like to think of it as The Big Bear Dinner. And in this fiction, I think that maybe they called it that because of the story of the Valle de Los Osos and the missions, and that would mean someone knew a good deal about early California history. In both the real and fictional versions, the proceeds from your ticket went to the church. All of this is real: Dinner was a slab of ham, along with mostachioli and marinara, salad, and candied yams. No bear was served, either a plate or on one. What’s weirder is that the young lady chosen to be that year’s Artichoke Festival Queen appeared at the dinner, and she donned a crude mask, made to look like Miss Piggy from the Muppets. At The Big Bear Dinner it would be a Fozzy Bear mask. Either way, a raffle was held. The Queen assisted in this task: kissing winners, Fozzy Bear mask, Miss Piggy mask, hip-hugging dress, manicured nails.

In 1771, along the banks of the San Antonio River, Father Serra, along with Fathers Buenaventura Sitjar and Miguel Pieras, consecrated the ground and erected the foundation cross in founding Mission San Antonio de Padua, third of the missions of Nueva California. In celebration, before the High Mass, Father Serra had the main bell strung upon the branch of a live oak and, ringing it, he hollered to the empty flat of the valley studded with yet more live oaks: “Come! Come you pagans and receive the faith of Jesus Christ!” When his fellow friars asked their prelate why he exerted himself so, in a land devoid of other humans, he replied, “Just as Sor María de Jésus de Ágreda, that venerable mother, brought the Holy faith to the gentiles of Nuevo México, here also this bell cries, beckoning to the heathen of this sierra.” After the gospel, when Father Serra turned from the oaken altar to deliver his homily, he spied a solitary Salinan Indian in view of the rite. The Blessed Father exclaimed, “I foresee that this Mission San Antonio will reap a great harvest for the Lord, for the fruits of paganism are already at hand!” And he gave to the native gifts of beads to entice him to return to the mission and to bring his friends.

Speaking of fruit, Father Francisco Palou details the abundant foods available to the Salinan Indians of el Valle de los Robles, where the fathers situated Mission San Antonio de Padua. For the natives’ sustenance the Earth provided rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, geese, ducks, snakes, lizards, clams and mussels, trout, piñon pine, and acorns. Palou described the great oak-filled plains as if they resembled the landscaped parks of Europe, for the grass grew low beneath the trees. The natives systematically burned the grass to facilitate the acorn harvest, but the Europeans did not see this and assessed the tribes as cultureless heathen.

At Lake San Antonio, Dad said that the Indians ate acorns. So, I tried some, after gathering and shelling them. Dad laughed when I grimaced at the bitter taste, and the way the nut dried my mouth. I said, “How could they eat that.” Dad said, “When you’re an Indian you eat what you have to.” Only as an adult, after research, would I learn how Native Americans prepared acorns, so making them palatable—those “cultureless heathen.”

Not long after I wrote this, my dad suffered a stroke, and the food he chewed as he recovered in his hospital bed, shoved to his mouth’s left side—the side his damaged brain neglects—stayed there, his cheeks puffed like a chipmunk’s, until we instructed my dad to tongue it out.

Acorns are high in tannic acid, as are walnuts or pecans, and that’s what leaves the dry film rimming the inside of your mouth. Native Californians learned to leach their acorns of the tannic acid, after having harvested in the fall, when the seeds have ripened and fallen from the trees. Ripe acorns typically fall cap-intact. Capless acorns are usually wormy, the wiggles of a worm wrenching the acorn from its cap prematurely. Ripened acorns are golden and shiny, their shells uncracked and whole. After harvest, the acorns were dried, shelled, and ground. Salinan mizzen sites speckle arroyos in the Santa Lucia foothills. Large flat boulders pocked from these ancient Californians’ labors tell stories from before the coming of the Spanish Empire. The acorns were ground to a grit-like consistency, or a very fine powder for baking into loaves. The acorn meal was then taken to the sand at the nearby arroyo. Natives heaped the sand into mounds and dug out cavities, filling said cavities with acorn meal. The clear cold spring water washed out the tannins into the sand below, a natural sieve. To cook, Salinans used water-tight cooking baskets which they filled with the prepared acorn meal and water. They heated select clean round rocks in a fire to very high temperatures, which they stirred into the water and meal in their cooking baskets, removing cooled rocks and returning them to the fire for heating in rotation. Quickly, the water came to a boil. The natives cooked their meal in a variety of thin, soup-like, or oatmeal-like consistencies. They added salt and elderberries to the mixture for flavor.

Despite the abundance of said nature’s fruits, the Spanish missions of Nuevo California, because of the Europeans’ insistence on “civilized” agriculture, were in the midst of a severe famine within the first year of existence.

In this famine, when mission food stores at San Diego dwindled to their cows’ milk, starving soldiers scoured the hills, their horses gaunt, the hills emaciated.

“In times of hunger, there was almost always enough milk available to the inhabitants of the missions, and the Franciscan friars encouraged, and even forced, their neophyte Indians to drink it. However, while humans are among the only mammals capable of drinking milk into and through adulthood, not all have this ability. Europeans are among the few ethnicities with the correct enzymes to digest milk; the indigenous people of the Americas, for the most part, are unable to digest milk past infancy, which actually contributed to the dysentery and even the death of some converts in the missions.” From Shipek, “The Conflict Between the California Indian and White Civilization,” p. 184.

When Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaíno landed at Monterey Bay, of the men not already dead, forty were too ill to continue, including the pilot, two helmsmen, the cosmographer and the scrivener. The local Rumsen told the Europeans of the acorns that were the staple of their diet. There can be up to sixty milligrams of Vitamin C in one hundred grams of acorn. But the Spanish would not eat this heathenish food that would have saved their lives.

Not long after Father Palou settled himself along the shores of Laguna de los Dolores he received as visitors Ohlone Indians, and the padre presented them with beads to show his good will. The native Californians, in turn gave to the priest “presents of small value, principally shell-fish and grass seeds.” The Franciscan also looked disparagingly at the other native foodstuffs, that he lists exhaustively: their seeds they ground into a flour with which they made a tamal that was evidently very savory, tasting like toasted almond; they ate fish and shellfish from the bay and ocean; they hunted deer, rabbit, geese, ducks, partridge, thrush, quail, beached whale, sea lions, seals and otters; acorns; nuts and blackberries and wild onions. Within a year of its founding, San Francisco’s missionaries, soldiers, colonists, and neophytes found themselves in the worst of famines, for the baptized Indians had forgotten how to survive off the land, and San Francisco’s notoriously harsh weather prevented substantive agriculture from taking root.

Among Junípero Serra’s and the other missionary fathers’ most prized commodities imported from Mexico: chocolate.

Yet another joke from my uncle via email:

An Irishman goes into the confessional box after years of being away from the Church. He is amazed to find a fully equipped bar with Guinness on tap. On the other wall is a dazzling array of the finest cigars and chocolates. Then the priest comes in. Excitedly, the Irishman begins, “Father, forgive me, for it’s been a very long time since I’ve been to confession, but I must first admit that the confessional box is much more inviting than it used to be.” The priest replies, “Get out. You're on my side.”

I have no idea why it’s important to this joke that the man is Irish.

Jamie Iredell is the author of several books. This essay is excerpted from Last Mass, a book-length lyric essay forthcoming in 2015 from Civil Coping Mechanisms.

12/12/14

P. I. Navarro

Of Time and Tacos

I’m back at Taco Bell
where I worked during high school
wearing the purple polo shirt
that makes everyone look like Grimace
and a nametag that says _____.
I am two days late for my shift
but it doesn’t matter
since no one can find the schedule.

On the line, Hu grits his teeth
and keeps pulling the trigger on the guac gun
painting the glasses and hanging paunch
of the Vietnam vet who is lost in flashbacks
and keeps shouting about sneaky gooks.

Luckily, the old man isn’t at his usual station
chopping green onions with a big-ass knife
and just stands there stuck
between the past and something else.

In the parking lot, kids wave pistols and burn rubber
in their lowered Hondas and Toyotas.
Hu’s laughter echoes from the PA system
while drunks shout through the static of the drive-thru speakers.

I scrub all the green mush
off all the stainless steel,
the touch screens and the plastic counter,
and off sweet little Billy
whose only duties are to smile
and wipe off the colorful serving trays.

The steam table rattles
and the dehydrated beans
that look like brown ashes
mix with hot water
and keep growing and overflow
onto the floor.
The clear bags of ground beef burst
all over the rubbery strips
of chicken and steak.
The Iceburg lettuce wilts
and the shredded cheese melts
as steam fills the room
and the outlines of customers
look like shades crowding up purgatory.

Walking back to my parents’ apartment
I pull up the hood on my black sweatshirt
and try not to step on sticks and leaves
as I pass the graveyard
where the ghosts of high school
the vampires, and werewolves
smoke clove cigarettes and make out.

Some of my old friends drive by
stuffed into their little mail truck
heading to the skate spots
and looking for kids to fight
like those Nazi skinheads
who were cowards
but had one big Mexican friend
who knew Karate and once
beat up three black kids
at the same time.

Inside the apartment
my mom and dad sleep in the living room.
I leave my filthy sneakers near the front door
and turn off the TV.
I open my bedroom door
and instead find a stairwell.
Through a window
I see the dark sea swell
while a rogue wave
grows in the distance.
I race the rising water
up each flight of stairs
and am choked by the stench
of salt and dead things.

P. I. Navarro is a writer and drummer who lives in Atlanta, GA. He runs the writing workshop and collective Aleph with Kory Oliver. He also edits the fiction section of killbot86.com.

12/11/14

Marivi Soliven

Talunang Manok                                                                                            
                                               
The affair had reached a full simmer by the time Socorro discovered her husband was cheating on her.  She had never been the sort of wife who hovered nearby when he took an evening call, nor did she riffle through his pant pockets for incriminating receipts. She knew that with a husband like hers, such surveillance would have been an exercise in futility.

Amado was clever, you see. He often said, “Socorro, when it comes to white-collar crime, the smoking gun is in receipts.  It’s the paper trail that trips you up.”

So he never left one.

He had all cell phone bills, bank and credit card statements mailed directly to his office.  Short of breaking into the law firm’s filing cabinet, she would never have learned of the daily calls to the Loft at Power Plant, the cozy dinners at Paseo Uno, the splurge on a pair of champagne-hued South Sea Pearl earrings that would never grace her lobes.

And yet Socorro discovered his infidelity without the confetti of a hundred trysts. She sensed something was up the moment his appetites changed.


            *                                  *                                  *                      *

Shortly after she began taking orders for Galantina and Pastel de Lengua, Amado mentioned that they’d been asked to host the law firm’s Christmas dinner once again.

“It’s that time of year, hon. Can you put together a dinner for the partners and their wives next Saturday?”

Socorro shrugged and poured herself more coffee. Organizing a 5-course sit-down dinner with wine pairings was all in a day’s work for high-end caterers like her.  The Secret Chef’s number was on the flash dial lists of savvy Manila hostesses who had neither the ability nor the cook skilled enough to prepare Filipino haute cuisine.

“I might as well – if one of the other wives was hosting, I’d be called to cater anyway.  Just remember, when you make senior partner I’m sending them a bill for all these free meals.”

Amado barely looked up from his chorizo.

 “Sweetham. We get paid back every time they give me a raise, you know that.” 

Socorro scowled into her sinangag.  She resented her husband’s cavalier attitude.  Although the couple had never discussed it, her catering had undoubtedly fueled Amado’s rapid ascent to partner at his law firm.

The ploy that had distinguished him from the other young Turks was his habit of conducting business over dinner at home. Meals for deals he called them.  Even the most obdurate clients mellowed when negotiating contracts over Socorro’s Bacalao a la Vizcaina.  By the time the mango panna cotta was brought to table, his guests weren completely disarmed and ready to comply with all the terms Amado had presented between first and final courses.

Word of Socorro’ culinary prowess spread and the Pelaez home quickly became the preferred site for the firm’s social events. On the surface Socorro and Amado seemed to complement each other perfectly.  Closer examination would have revealed their marriage was just beginning to curdle.

                                    *                                  *                                  *

On that Saturday evening midway into Misa de Gallo season Socorro was graciously pouring Sangria for Amado’s colleagues at Samson, Punzalan and Santuico, the Manila affiliate of a major New York law firm. The partners were uniformly middle-aged executives with minor paunches, discreet comb-overs and respectable golf handicaps.  Each lawyer affected an air of jovial authority that enabled him to be alternately reassuring or threatening when dealing with clients or opposing counsel.

There was more variety when it came to the wives.  Soledad Punzalan was an outspoken marketing executive who had recently returned from a trip abroad sporting an alarmingly taut, heart-shaped face.  Lillia Samson was a peach of a matron who directed a preschool for the progeny of Manila’s best familes.
Bea Santuico was a Bacolod mestiza who created fanciful jewelry from excavated gold and semi-precious gems.

Socorro had never felt completely at ease with these women for unlike their families, hers was neither old- nor even newly rich.  Nevertheless her catering business had gained her unique entry into their rarified circles: at many parties Socorro was both guest and hired help. Consequently Socorro’s immediate payoff  for hosting company dinners was the knowledge that in her own home at least, she would always be the de facto alpha female.

She was serving a second round of drinks when Inday ushered in a latecomer. The men automatically sat up and drained their glasses, practically smacking their lips at the surprise appetizer the cook presented.  For far different reasons the wives also scrutinized the newcomer, whose sleek honey-skinned figure appeared to have been decanted into a short black sheath then garnished with pearls.  She was at least 15 years younger and as many pounds slimmer than the other women.

This made it impossible to like her.

“Socorro I hope you don’t mind, we invited a colleague who’s visiting from head office.” Miguel Punzalan raised his glass in a toast to the new arrival.   “This is Cassandra Villareal, just in from New York. She and Amado are working on the telecommunications merger this year. We wanted to welcome her with a Filipino feast.”

“How nice of you to come,” Socorro handed her a drink.  “You look too young to be a lawyer -- did you grow up in New York?”

“Chicago, actually. My father was a doctor who migrated from Manila in the ‘60s.”

“I knew you were Filipino.  It’s in the eyes, always the eyes,” Bea cooed, stretching out her vowels in her languid Ilongga way.   She clearly intended to peddle her baubles to this expat before the year was out.

“Actually I’m only half Filipino, my mom is Greek-American.  That explains the clunky name.” Cassandra swirled the glass of sangria with a slender, ring-free hand. “So please, call me Cassie.”

“Doesn’t Cassandra mean catastrophe in Greek?” Soledad teased.

“Not quite. It means ‘She who entangles men,” Cassandra replied.

“Consider us warned,” Socorro wagged her glass at the other women.  “Shall we go in to dinner?”

Bea launched her charm offensive as Inday ladled out the pancit molo. “So Cassandra, how long do you plan to be with us?  Don’t let these men bore you with work, there’s so much to see outside of Manila….”

“Oh, but I enjoy the work and anyway  I’m still getting to know the city.   Amado was kind enough to give me a quick tour of the Glorietta at lunch the other day.” 

“How very kind of him,” Soledad raised an eyebrow at Socorro’s husband, who was chasing a dumpling around his soup bowl.

                                    *                      *                      *

By the time Socorro began delivering heart-shaped tortes for Valentine’s, Amado’s appetite had begun to wane.  At first he declined dessert, claiming he had to lose the extra pounds he’d gained over Christmas. Second servings were the next to go. Soon after that he simply stopped coming home for dinner.  By March Inday had stopped asking if her Ate was dining alone and simply set a single plate for Socorro each night. 

And yet in spite of Amado’s claims that the late nights at work were running him into the ground, he seemed remarkably chipper. Socorro often overheard her husband humming Tony Bennet tunes while shaving in the morning. One day Socorro discovered him preening before her full-length mirror, sucking in his gut and craning his neck to diminish the double chin that threatened to engulf his jaw.

“Give it up, Ading,” she teased.  “Those extra pounds aren’t going anywhere. Middle age is upon us.”

“Speak for yourself, Socorro.” He sprayed cologne on both palms and rubbed his neck. “I’m not ready to enter the golden years just yet.” 

Amado picked up his briefcase.   “Don’t wait up.  We have a conference call with head office.  I doubt we’ll be done before midnight.”

Socorro leaned over to steal a kiss but her husband was already reaching for the door. Glancing back, he sighed.

“Really Socorro, maybe you should take Soledad’s lead and get something done.  Just because you’re middle-aged doesn’t mean you have to look it.”

And then he was gone.

Socorro avoided looking in the mirror that had earlier lied to Amado.  When had her husband turned into Peter Pan? How could he think she had overtaken him in the race to senescence?  She took a deep, calming breath….And why on earth did their bedroom suddenly smell of lavender, sage and rosemary?

She glanced at Amado’s dresser and understood.  After a decade of Grey Flannel, her stolid husband had switched to something called Egoiste Platinum. By Chanel. 

Amado, whose machismo had been nurtured by Jesuits and toughened by a fraternity would not have been caught dead sampling cologne at the Chanel counter, no, not even in some foreign Duty Free emporium far away from his hidebound peers at Samson, Punzalan and Santuico. This could only have been purchased by the sort of woman who wanted to smell summer in Provence whenever she nuzzled Amado’s no longer young neck.

Who could confirm her suspicions, Socorro wondered.  The good lawyers at Samson, Punzalan and Santuico would never betray a fellow partner.  In any case pride prevented her from investigating her husband, acting for all the world like the stereotypical jealous wife.

It was a pity Amado preferred to drive his own car; a driver could have told her his daily itinerary: where he went for lunch, if he stopped anywhere after work; if a woman had shared the ride.  After splurging on a late model Jaguar, Amado now felt compelled to drive himself everywhere.  The man could barely stand to surrender his trophy car to valet parking.

Socorro decided she needed something more solid than aftershave to prove her husband was cheating. Meanwhile, she strove to maintain a semblance of normality, catering Easter dinners, Mother’s day brunches and wedding banquets as Manila simmered in the sultry summer months.

                               *                        *                          *

Her patience was rewarded by Amado himself, who had not shed his habit of clinching a deal over food – in this case, lunch.  Socorro was rushing to meet a client at Glorietta that Friday when she spotted her husband through the glassed-in patio of a bistro. Ducking behind an oversized box planter, she proceeded to spy on her husband and She-Who-Entangles-Men.

Cassandra was leaning rather too closely into Amado’s shoulder. He must have said something amusing, for at that moment she giggled, cupping his cheek with one hand and pulling him into a brief kiss.

Socorro could not bear to see more.  Turning hastily, she nearly fell over a  passing stroller.  The uniformed yaya pulled back  with a yelp before Socorro trampled her sleeping ward.  Socorro hurried off, hoping her sunglasses could provide sufficient cover when the dam broke.

                        *                                  *                                  *

Once indignation had overtaken grief, Socorro spent some weeks brooding over her situation.  On the one hand, the marriage had gone rancid.  On the other, she now had the trump card with which to claim the one thing Amado had never given her: a child. 

At 40, she was aware that the odds of conception were dismal.  Nevertheless, there were procedures that could significantly improve these odds, procedures that could now be paid for with the guilt money she intended to extort from her philandering husband. 

She laid the groundwork by performing due diligence. She visited a fertility specialist, had her hormones measured, discussed the results with her doctor.  Within a few months, she had gathered all the evidence needed to make her case.

                        *                                  *                                  *

The monsoon was intent on drowning Manila that Sunday. The rain’s rhythmic drumming enveloped Socorro’s kitchen in a cocoon of warmth, scented by lamb shanks stewing in a pot and herbed potatoes roasting in the oven.   She had given the cook the day off so that she could personally prepare a meal for the deal she hoped to clinch with Amado.

“Something smells good.  Are you catering tonight?”  her husband strolled into the kitchen.

“No,” Socorro stirred olives into the stew.  “I thought we could have a nice Sunday dinner for a change, just the two of us.”

Ay Socorro,  you should have told me earlier. The New York office wants some paperwork faxed over, first thing Monday morning,” Amado dipped a wooden spoon into the pot and fished out an olive. “I’m going to have to go into the office tonight to make their deadline.” 

He slurped up the olive. “Mmm… tastes like you’ve been cooking this all day.  Maybe I can take it in for lunch tomorrow?”

Socorro snatched the spoon from him and tossed it into the sink. “When will you stop lying, Amado?  You’re not really going to the office tonight, are you?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Sweetham.  Where else would I be going?”

“Maybe I should ask Cassandra.”

“What does Cassie have to do with it?”

“What does ‘Cassie’ have to do with you?”

“If you’re implying that –“

“How stupid do you think I am, Ading?” Socorro reached past him and pulled a large chef’s knife from its block.  “I know all about the two of you.”

Keeping an eye on the blade, Amado replied with the coolly impersonal lawyer’s voice he used on his most recalcitrant clients. “You don’t know a damn thing about --”

“Don’t patronize me, Ading. I saw you.  Kissing her in broad daylight at Café Havana two months ago. I saw you.”  BAM!  Socorro slammed the knife broadside against the chopping board with her fist.  The garlic clove beneath popped neatly out of its skin. 

She took more cloves from a bowl and smacked the knife blade over each one as Amado slowly backed away from the counter.

“I asked Lillia the other day -- she said she’s known about it for months… just like everyone else at your office knew.  Apparently you were the last partner to pick up a querida.  Pues better late than never, no?”  Socorro was furiously mincing the garlic into a paste. 

“Can you blame me?  All you think about is food – creating these feasts for people you barely know, then helping them eat it!  Have you looked at yourself lately?” Amado waved at her stained apron. 

Socorro didn’t bother to glance down.  She was well aware that her body had expanded along with the catering business.  After all, what credibility could a skinny cook claim?

“How dare you make my weight an excuse for cheating.  What did you think would happen after all those dinners I catered for your partners, your clients, all those meals for deals? I worked just as hard for your career as you did,” Socorro grabbed a fistful of parsley from her herb basket and hacked it into a chiffonade.

“Don’t you lay that guilt trip on me – you wanted to host those parties, you said yourself that every event opened the door to more referrals.”  Amado ran a hand over his thinning hair and glanced out the window. The wind was hurling sheets of rain over his Jaguar.  He would have to end this spat quickly if he wanted to make it to dinner with Cassie by seven.  “If you think…”

“You obviously don’t care what I think,”  Socorro put down the knife and wiped her hands on her apron.  “So let me tell you what I want.”

“If you think I’m going to leave Cassie –“

“’Punyeta Amado,  I’ve heard enough about her.  From now on it’s going to be all about how you are going to make it up to me.” 

She pulled a folder out of a kitchen drawer and held it out to him.  “There they are, Dr. Rabassa’s report, my lab results, the FSH levels, the hormones, everything you need to know about getting me pregnant.”

“You can’t be pregnant,” Amado waved the envelope away “…We haven’t—“

“Oh, but I intend to be,” Socorro stepped forward, nudging his chest with the folder.  “These lab results show I still have a few viable eggs. If we did In Vitro…”

“Do you know how much that’s going to cost?” Amado exploded, slapping the folder out of her hands, its contents scattering on the floor.  “At your age, we’ll have to do it more than once. Hundreds of thousands of pesos wasted on lousy odds.  No Socorro, we had this discussion ten years ago.  I’m not doing it.  You can’t blackmail me into doing this.”

Turning, Amado grabbed his keys. “Too bad you wasted all this time cooking. I’m not cutting any deals off this meal.” 

As he turned to leave, Socorro reached for the nearest object and flung it at him.  The canister shattered against the doorjamb, showering Amado with shards of glass and rock salt.

“Do you really think your hysterics can stop me? Not even this storm could keep me away from her.”  Amado brushed salt off his shoulders.  “Now that everything’s out in the open I can stop pretending. I’ll sleep in the guest room tonight. Tell Inday to move all my clothes and shoes over there.”

“Move them yourself, you bastard!”

But Amado was already sprinting through the rain to his car.

Socorro sank onto a bar stool and stared out the window at their sodden driveway, ignoring the dinner she would again have to eat alone.


                                    *                                  *                                  *                                             

As Socorro’s stew gasped on its last drops of broth, a sports car swerved to overtake a bus along Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue.  It hydroplaned wildly over the flooded freeway then careened into a divider, flipping like an oversized skateboard and landing heavily on its roof.  The bus driver and his passengers later described how the Jaguar’s momentum propelled it several yards until it rammed into a stalled jeep abandoned by the curb.

                                    *                                  *                                  *

Shortly after midnight, the driver’s widow was shown into the hospital’s morgue. She stood at the head of the table on which the corpse lay hidden beneath a clean white sheet.  The female doctor on duty raised the sheet long enough for Socorro to confirm that deceased was in fact Amado.  She closed her eyes briefly and nodded, letting out a slow breath.

“Mrs. Pelaez, I’m so sorry for your loss…” Dra. Benedicto murmured, keeping a respectful distance from the widow.   “No one should ever have to see a loved one in this condition. He couldn’t possibly have survived that crash, but you know his injuries would have been less severe if he had strapped on his seatbelt.”

“No seatbelt? I’m not surprised,” Socorro shook her head. “He drives that Jaguar like a teenager.  The day he made partner, he went straight to the dealership and ordered the latest model.   ‘Liquid Silver’ – that’s the fancy name the dealership gave the color of his Jaguar.”

“It’s his favorite toy, you know…I mean, it was his favorite toy,” she faltered.  “I’m sorry. I really should stop talking as though he were still alive.” Socorro absentmindedly patted her husband’s sheet-covered head.

Dra. Benedicto jumped at this rare chance for chitchat; it was usually so quiet down at the morgue.

“Mrs. Pelaez, you may not remember me but my name is Chona, Bea Santuico’s niece?  You catered at my despedida de soltera last  year – perhaps you knew me by Dayao, my maiden name.  I married a Benedicto from Bacolod…?”

Socorro recalled the November dinner, silverware and leaded crystal goblets gleaming beneath the fairy lights that garlanded the estate’s acacias.

“Ah yes, your Tita Bea introduced us at her daughter’s debut, I remember now, hija.” She smiled.  “You and your fiancé made such a lovely couple.”

Socorro looked beyond Dra. Benedicto to the shrouded figure and her smile faded.  “Strange how life changes, no?  Last year I helped celebrate your wedding, and now here you are, showing me my dead husband.”

Naku Mrs. Pelaez, I’m so sorry, this was the wrong time to bring up my wedding, forgive me.” Dra. Benedicto touched Socorro’s elbow.  “Please, if there’s anything at all I can do to help …”

Socorro stared at the earnest young doctor as the seed of an idea sprouted in her mind.  Walking halfway down the table, she lifted the sheet.  Most of Amado was barely recognizable, but his private parts were in pristine condition. She turned to the young doctor and framed her request as delicately as possible.

“You know, Amado wanted to be cremated.   Pero hija, I loved my husband at least as much as you love yours …and the thought of every last bit of him going up in smoke,“ Socorro wiped away an insincere tear. “It’s just too much to bear.”

Anticipating a storm of tears, Dra. Benedicto stepped toward Socorro ready with  her stock phrases of sympathy, but the widow rambled on. 

“We were not blessed with children.  After the funeral I will have nothing to remind me of him.”

“I know this is highly irregular but please hija, could you give me this one small piece of my husband to take home? It’s the only part of him that still looks whole…” Socorro raised the sheet high enough for Dra. Benedicto to see Amado’s limp penis.

“I just want to bury it in our garden, under his favorite mango tree.” 

Startled, the doctor drew back but Socorro pressed on, lowering her voice as though afraid that the neighboring dead would overhear.

“Please Chona, do this for your Tita Socorro.  The other doctors don’t have to find out.  It’s the middle of the night, the morticians are coming in the morning and I will explain the missing … portion to them. I promise you won’t get into trouble.”  Socorro grabbed the doctor’s hand.   “Please indulge this old widow.”

“Well, I suppose it’s just a simple dissection…” Chona extricated her hand from Socorro’s crushing grip. “All right, Tita.  Ordinarily I would never do such a thing, but for you…Let me find a scalpel –“


                                    *                                  *                                  *


The widowed caterer had declared a hiatus from cooking during her period of mourning, but after the ninth day of prayers Socorro returned to her kitchen with a vengeance. 

The day after his cremation, Amado Pelaez’s ashes filled a heavy silver urn that claimed its place of honor atop the dining room credenza.  The balance of his remains sat on the butcher’s block, waiting to enrich the entree Socorro was preparing for her sole dinner guest.

Socorro sliced the shaft and scrotum into anonymous cubes then stirred them into a thick stew of chicken thighs, pig’s feet and mashed black beans.  The pot muttered portentously, exhaling breaths redolent with anise and garlic.

It had been relatively easy to summon Cassandra to this intimate dinner. Socorro simply enlisted the aid of the partners’ wives, who nagged their husbands into insisting the junior associate attend a despedida dinner before she returned to New York.

And so it was that barely two weeks after the tragic accident, the two women sat across from each other, Amado’s ashes perched just beyond the cabisera.

“You really shouldn’t have gone to all this trouble,” Cassandra murmured, as Socorro ladled a generous portion of stew onto her guest’s plate.

“No trouble at all, hija, cooking is my therapy.  Amado always spoke so highly of you and your...” Socorro handed Cassandra her plate,  “…work.   I know he would have wanted to send you off with a little despedida.  Please, try this. It was one of his favorite dishes.”

Socorro watched mesmerized as Cassandra speared a cube of flesh and slid the fork into her mouth, chewing with obvious relish.

“No wonder Amado liked this – it’s so tender and hmmm I don’t know savory in a kind of…pungent  way.   I’ve never tasted anything like it.  You really are an amazing cook.”  She saluted Socorro with her glass of wine and took a sip.

Socorro nodded graciously and drank with her.  “You know, I was just wondering, when was the last time you saw my husband?”

Cassandra swirled the wine in her glass, seemingly fascinated by its blood red hue.  “That would have been on Friday afternoon at the office.”

“But wasn’t it one of those weekends when you both had to pull extra hours at the firm?  There were so many of them…”

“Lord, no.  It was raining so hard that Sunday, I refused to leave my condo.  We ordered Chinese take-out for dinner.”

“We?” Socorro looked at her quizzically.

Cassandra speared another chunk of meat with her fork.  “I had a visitor.”

“Anyone I know?”  Socorro was smiling but her eyes were cold.

Cassandra’s fork paused midway to her mouth.  “If you don’t mind, I’d rather not talk about it. It ended badly.”  She slipped the fork into her mouth and chewed vigorously.

Socorro picked at her mango salad and patiently watched the younger woman finish her dinner.

Bite.  Chew. Swallow. Bite. Chew. Swallow. 

They ate in awkward silence until with a discreet burp,  Cassandra made a feeble attempt at chitchat.

“So is this a Filipino dish?  It doesn’t taste anything like adobo.”

“Actually it’s a similar stew called ‘Talunang Manok.’”  Socorro dabbed at her mouth with a napkin. “The local tradition among cockfighters is, when a rooster is killed in a cockfight, he isn’t simply tossed into the trash bin. The sabungero takes him home and cooks him for dinner that night.  We Filipinos hate to see anything go to waste.”

Socorro folded her napkin, carefully smoothing the wrinkles around Amado’s monogrammed initials. 

“In other words Cassandra, what you are eating is the defeated cock…he lost, you see.”

Cassie looked momentarily confused. “I could have sworn I was eating pork just now.”

Socorro gazed at her dead husband’s lover with unexpected pity.


“You’re right, of course. He really was a pig.”

Marivi Soliven has taught writing workshops at the University of the Philippines and the University of California at San Diego. Stories from her 17 books have appeared in anthologies and creative writing texts in Manila and the United States. She won awards for her children’s fiction in 1991 and 1992 and the Grand Prize for the Novel in 2011, all three conferred by the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, the Philippine counterpart of the Pulitzer Prize. That novel, The Mango Bride, was published by Penguin Books in April 2013. Grupo Planeta released a Spanish translation in October 2014 and National Book Store is currently developing the Filipino edition. In June 2014, the San Diego Book Awards named The Mango Bride Best Contemporary Fiction of 2013. "Talunang Manok" was originally published in a fiction anthology, Spooky Mo.